Tag Archives | adventure

Small Steps to Big Dreams

A friend sat in my kitchen courageously unpacking every detail of her big, big dream. I nodded as she spoke. “Yes, I can see you doing that. I can see you there,” I said.

I have a big, big dream, too. It scares me sometimes to speak it out loud, as if giving it a voice puts my heart in a place of great risk. So, I told my friend with the big, bold dream what I’ve learned about big dreams and small steps.

Today’s small step leads to tomorrow’s big dream.

I listened as another friend broke down the life of Gideon this week. She spoke four words that landed with a thud in my heart. “Small can be powerful.”

Gideon, in the beginning, was skeptical God could use him. He didn’t see the mighty warrior in himself that God saw. Gideon was the least of the least, unlikely to succeed in defeating Israel’s enemy. And then God asked him to whittled his army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred.

Small. Unlikely to be victorious against the enemy. But God was with them, and they won the battle.

A different friend shared with me her secret fear that people will laugh at her if she takes her next small step. Though small steps may seem insignificant, they can be just as terrifying as voicing the big dream. But God knows that small steps cultivate humility and peace.

Small Steps, Big Dreams

Small steps bring relief to a dreamer’s heart.

Zerubbabel knew a thing or two about small steps and about their perceived insignificance. God had given Zerubbabel a big, big dream: rebuild the temple. The work was to be completed not by human power or might, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Listen to the words of the prophet Zechariah concerning this monumental task:
Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel? Zechariah 4:10

The Hebrew word translated despise means “to hold in contempt, to hold as insignificant, to trample with the feet.” I’ve trampled over my fair share of small steps. I thought they were ridiculous and a complete waste of time. But God has ordained every small step in my life. He’s used each one to humble me, change me, and prepare me for what’s ahead. God has ordained a series of small steps for you, too.

He sees each step we take in faith.

God also knows the opposition and rejection we will encounter on the way. He knows how the enemy will try his hardest to discourage us, to hold these small steps in contempt, make us want to quit and walk away. Don’t.

My big dream is to encourage hearts by bringing God’s truth to women I know and those I don’t know through written and spoken word.  My next step isn’t glamourous, but it is significant as I take one step of faith at a time.

Keep writing.

That’s it. For me, God has asked me to keep writing. Keep listening. Keep putting words on the page. And I am choosing to believe it matters. What about you? What big dream has God put on your heart? Start a ministry? Quit smoking? Get a degree? Build a career? Get in shape? Raise a family to love, serve, and follow Jesus?

Today's small step leads to tomorrow's big dream.

What small step toward your big dream can you take today?

Make a commitment. Set a goal. Take a class. Tell someone. Start training. Attend a meeting. Or a conference. Learn more. Ask questions. Apply. Go. Begin. Do the next small thing God is asking of you.

Sometimes, the next small step is to pray. Never underestimate the significance of entrusting your dreams to Jesus, the Author of every beautiful dream.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments what your small step looks like for today. Don’t despise the days of small things. Welcome them, and trust that each one matters more than we could possibly know.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

One more thing:

I got on Twitter this week @kelly_sobieski. It feels strange to say that. Another teeny tiny step. If you feel compelled to connect with me there, I’ll be sharing some words over there. If you haven’t already, I’d love to invite you to my Facebook Writer Page. I share extras here and there and always love hearing from you.

If you’re not big on social media, I get it. The best way to stay connected (and my favorite way to connect with you) is by becoming a subscriber to Carried by Love. My subscribers are always the first to receive new posts and information about giveaways. You will get content delivered straight to your inbox, usually once a week. I’d love to extend that invitation.

I feel nothing but gratitude towards you, dear Reader. As always, thanks for reading!

 

6

{HER STORY} 04: Dream Weeper

Underneath a canopy of pines, God took scraps of our stories and ignited a connection.  I met Alix during our family’s very first adventure to Pine Cove. Her camp name, “Dream Weeper,” would soon take on a meaning of its own.

Two years later, I’d sit down and listen to her unfold all the layers of her story. I’d learn gobs about this Jesus-chasing girl, plenty about my own heart, and way more than I expected about the God who authors every inconceivable dream.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

This is her story. . .

Alix is a rare gem, full of faith and brimming with passion. She struggled, when she was younger, with the way God designed her heart. Her enlarged capacity to feel anything and everything was both overwhelming and frustrating at times. Is it ok to weep? she wondered. Is it ok to dream? Is there space for how God wired me?

Passion seemed more like a burden than a gift.

She tried to ease her pain by wearing the mask of a bully. But when a car wreck nearly took her life her senior year, Jesus became up-close and real. Though Alix has no recollection of ever not knowing Jesus, His protection, love, and complete control over all the details of her life became tangible to her that day as she sat surrounded by wreckage.

This is her story...

College provided a fresh start, a new beginning. I would have never known that during that hot, August week at Pine Cove’s Family Camp, Alix wished she was somewhere else.

Though she accepted a staff position as videographer, her dream position (and her heart) was down the road at a different camp site where campers were kids not families. But God had a plan for her that summer at the Woods. As she gathered images of family after family, her own view of family began to shift.

Alix never expected to fall in love. But she did. Hard. A new dream took shape. Marriage. Family. But the love she poured out over the following months wasn’t reciprocated. It made no sense.

Why would God invite her into something He knew would only break her heart?

God told her not to run away. Instead, He asked her to sit with the awful sting of rejection, because He knew what would happen next. He never allows a heart to shatter without purpose, without meaning, without lifting something more beautiful out of the debris.

Over the course of that summer, God shattered Alix’s dream of marriage, so that He could show her what marriage truly is: momentary. She discovered how she had put her life’s dream and identity into something completely fleeting.

Too invested to turn back, Alix began a crash course on the depth of God’s love from the very center of the painful wreckage of her broken heart. It was a turning point in her love affair with Jesus.

Through the pain of not being loved back, God showed her gospel love in the most intimate way.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Her Story: Dream Weeper

After graduating, Alix landed her dream job as a designer at Hallmark. When the “dream fluff,” (as she called it) quickly dissipated, God led her to a private tuition-free school for kids who live in poverty. Urban Christian Academy brought a new kind of tension to Alix’s heart.

Again, God asked Alix to surrender her dream. Again, He invited her to check what tethered her identity. Her heart broke once more under the weight of His love as He called her to something higher, something painfully beautiful, something more.

The path to complete surrender is always through the wake of obliterated dreams.

Alix quickly went from volunteering once a week to volunteering twice a week to realizing that she couldn’t go a single day without seeing the bright smiles at UCA.  As she struggled to put words to what was happening to her, she said, “My heart… in the way I relate and serve and love people… comes alive here.”

As an artist at Hallmark, she’s created breathtaking pieces of art, but as a volunteer at UCA, Alix creates something else entirely. She creates space for kids with big personalities. Alix validates those very same feelings she once navigated by just showing up and offering all she’s got.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Two weeks after we sat down to talk, Alix sent me a text letting me know she had quit her dream job at Hallmark and taken a full-time position as Operations Coordinator at UCA. “Oh the stories God writes,” she said.

She’s handed over her dream of design to the One who’s intricately designed her heart.

Her Story: Dream WeeperGod is refining her identity and her passion and using her creativity in ways she’d never dreamed He could use. Here, Alix gets to answer her own deepest question: Is passion a burden or a gift? Her deepest source of pain is now the art she offers every single day.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God spoke His dream over His people who’d been hauled off into exile:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

God told them to embrace both the truth that they were far from home and the promise that His dream for them involved a seven-decade-long captivity.

He explained why the suffering piece was so crucial in the verses that follow:

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:12-14.

God’s dream for His people encompassed that tension Alix knows so well. Every fracture He allows leads to discovery of the passion associated with surrendering our entire hearts to the One who promised us a brand, new heart in return.

God creates His dream home within human hearts, so that He is never far from any of us.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Until I interviewed Alix, I never noticed the same growing tension laced all throughout the book of Jeremiah. God’s dream, beautiful yet perplexing, juxtaposed with the dreams all of us desperately want to believe in.

Lying prophets tickled ears with abbreviated suffering and drive-thru-lane comfort. I probably would have been in that group chasing after these gently spoken dreams, mostly because they sound so much less harsh and so much more attainable.

But these dreams accomplished only one thing: God was completely forgotten. Jeremiah’s message spoke of something altogether different: Surrender.

Surrender sounds nothing like the fairy tales we clutch close.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

And really, that’s it, isn’t it? God’s dreams are impossible without Him, so we settle for dreams that exclude Him or box Him in or make Him secondary, just in case He decides not to come through for us. We struggle to fully trust Him without that back-up plan in our back pocket. What we resist more than anything is our own deep, dependent need for Him to show up.

And yet He has. God’s people—our spiritual ancestors—dreamt a mighty ruler would come free them and overturn every oppressor they’d ever known. No one expected a baby born to ordinary parents from an ordinary town. No one expected a man well-acquainted with suffering. They dreamt of a king who could keep them all from suffering. No one—not even those closest to Jesus—expected Him to die. Innocently. Unjustly. Willingly.  Humbly.

Yeah, He showed up alright.

Three days after He suffered the unthinkable, He showed up. And the dream He had spoken to them became alive. It was a far better dream than anyone there could have ever come up with . . . and it would require bold, blind faith to dream the dream, live the dream, and speak the dream aloud so others could dream, too.

When I asked Alix to define surrender in her own life, I fiercely scribbled every word: “My surrender to the Lord is an acknowledgement of His power, not an agreement for Him to proceed. He’s already writing the story,” she told me. “He’s not asking my permission to take control of things; He already has control.”

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Surrender is believing not relinquishing.

Alix’s story overflows with the deep soul-joy that accompanies true, unhindered surrender. Passion on every page dares us all to throw ourselves into a God-sized dream that will utterly jolt us to our core and fill us to our toes and leave us audaciously and forever changed.

What I love most about her story is how fully she trusts God as she sits patiently at the tip top of the story arc, high above that smoothed out ending. The conflict, the tension, the waiting for all of the things to come together—that is where she is soaking up all she can about the character of God, the beauty of surrender, and the reality of the gospel.

If you asked Alix what it is that’s captivated her heart, what it is she’s truly hooked on, I know she’d answer you in a heartbeat: it’s Him. Jesus. She’s hooked on Him. You will find Me, God says, when you surrender you heart. Jesus is worth every piece of our broken dreams we hand over. Every single piece.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

To connect with Alix and read more about her journey, visit alixcarruth.com.

1

Threads of Impossibility

I hate folding laundry. Especially socks. I guess it’s more like pairing than folding. Inevitably, every time I do laundry, one sock always seems to lose its mate. Today, I reach into the laundry basket and retrieve—as expected—one tiny white sock, its matching partner nowhere to be found.

Hours later, as I climb scattered into my car to chase errands on my to-do list, I find the missing sock . . . underneath my seat.

A million different scenarios race through my mind as to how the lonesome sock wound up here, but I have neither the time nor mental stamina to narrow it down. I stash it next to me in the front seat and let the mundane inconveniences of daily life fling my eyes wide open.

I remember a time not too long ago when the thought of teeny tiny socks stuck underneath my seat seemed not only unlikely, but impossible. This sock represents so much more than my dreaded laundry day experience; it represents God’s promise to me kept; it represents miraculous healing I can’t quite explain; it represents the building up of my fragile faith, one baby step at a time.

This sock represents delicately thin threads of impossibility.

There are other threads of impossibility in my life: my parents’ marriage that should have never survived, but is now thriving… a childhood friendship that endured fourteen long years of silence before God redeemed it in the most gorgeous way… destructive habits I considered too deeply engrained within me that are today no longer a tethered part of me… You have your own, I’m sure.

Today, I realize something about each and every one of these that I’ve never considered before:

Someone had to reach out in faith.

Last month I gathered with a tiny group of women to pray. A girl I don’t know shared scripture from her own worn bible. She talked about creation and how everything we see—from the stars at night to the Grand Canyon to the beauty in a sunrise—are just the fringe of all God is.

She went on to talk about a woman who risked everything to reach out and touch the fringe of Jesus’ robe. Because she believed there was more. More for her life, more of His plan to discover, more of His power, more of His love.

When she touched those threads of impossibility, her entire life was altered.

The woman’s story is found in Chapter 5 of Mark’s gospel. She had been bleeding for twelve years, and after spending all she had trying to get better, wound up much worse than when she started out.

A brave thought skirted through her mind the day Jesus came to her town: “If only I touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28 NET)

If only… If only I reach for the fringe of Him, for threads of the impossible.

She believed she would be healed, and she was . . . but Jesus gave her so much more. He not only healed her, but He saw her, listened to her, and spoke to her. This is the only time in scripture where Jesus uses the term “Daughter.”

Each time God heals me physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually, He never leaves it at that. He reminds me that He sees me, hears me, knows me.

There is a difference between brushing up against Jesus and reaching out to touch Him in faith.

The disciples questioned Jesus when He asked the crowd who touched Him. “You see the crowd pressing against you,” they said. (see Mark 5:31) But Jesus searched for the woman whose faith compelled her to touch the hem of his robe, mere threads of impossibility.

Fully God. Fully man. How is that even possible?

Maybe you’ve been there, too, wanting more than anything to reach out to Jesus. I cherish the threads of impossibility in my life, because each one reminds me that He reached out in love first.

All my reaching for Him is really just receiving Him.

Reaching requires courage, because it comes at a cost. The woman in this story recognized this as she fell at Jesus’ feet and told Him everything. Scripture says, “She told him the whole truth.” (see Mark 5:33) Jesus wants all of us. Every part. And He wants to give us more than we ask. He wants to give us the gift of an encounter with Him.

Go ahead and risk it all for the sake of knowing Him. He’s inviting you to give everything—the whole of it—over to Him and trust that He can accomplish the impossible in you.

Don’t settle for casual contact with Jesus here and there. You’ll never be content just gazing from a far. Reach out and touch Him.

Just the hem of His love changes everything.

Reach for what feels relationally impossible.

Reach for real answers to the same prayer you’ve prayed over and over and over.

Reach for the adventure just around the corner you’d never have the guts to dream up on your own.

Reach for the call to serve that will force you out of your comfort zone.

Reach for God’s power, unleashed in your small, daily moments.

Reach for your part in the family of God.

Reach for Jesus, the One who sees all of you, the One who knows you. Daughter, reach out. Let His touch transform you. An encounter with Jesus leaves every one of us radically changed.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

4

Real Trust in Marriage

Marriage is hard. I’ve put off this post for weeks now, because even after nearly fifteen years, I have no business writing about marriage.

I like my coffee strong, and my man likes his music loud. If given an entire evening to plan anything at all, he’d choose a crowded sporting arena with lots and lots of people; I’d choose a bubble bath and a book. I thrive in deep, meaningful conversation; he thinks you’re never too old to play practical jokes.

I’m a dreamer, a quiet observer, a compulsive reader; he’s a comedian, a competitive athlete, and an outspoken leader who willingly jumps into the messy stuff.

I used to think that we were too different.

Early in our marriage, I secretly wished he would magically morph into a manly version of me. Then we’d have so much more in common and so much less time devoted to sports, and wouldn’t that be so much easier and comfortable and enjoyable… for me?

As I read back those words, I’m smothered by my own self-centeredness.

Today, I open up to the book of Matthew like I do every Christmas season, and the union of Mary and Joseph (and my own marriage) is on my heart. Without thinking twice, I write down one word in my journal: trust.

This marriage should have ended before it began. It almost did. When Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided in his mind that he would do the compassionate thing and divorce her quietly. This young teenage girl’s reputation (as well as her life) was on the line.

In a dream, God explained the situation and told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (see Matthew 1:20-21)

How different would this story read if Mary and Joseph had not trusted God?

Matthew spells out next why all of this is so crucial, why Joseph and Mary are key players in this story. In Matthew 1:22-23, he quotes the prophet, Isaiah, who said: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’).

Mary and Joseph trusted God and accepted that this marriage might be bigger than their own hopes and dreams, their own wishes and preferences, their own familiar comfort zones. Both laid down entitlement, and instead, chose to be a part of God’s plan to save many lives.

After Jesus was born, King Herod went on a furious quest to locate the child who threatened his throne.  Joseph received instructions on how to move his family to Egypt, far outside Herod’s jurisdiction. Mary followed the man who married her pregnant and all.

After King Herod died, Joseph received further instructions in two separate dreams to move his family to the land of Israel, then to the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Today I don’t just see a wife trusting her husband; I see something more.

Mary trusted Joseph while clinging to Jesus.

Mary and Joseph encountered struggle and hardship from the very beginning of their relationship. Both had to exercise trust towards one another, but ultimately, their trust was in God.

Exercising trust in our marriages means believing that God joined us together for a purpose that involves using every one of the differences between us. Exercising trust begins with the destruction of our own kingdoms so that His kingdom is our joint focus.

When we exercise trust in our marriages, we know in our bones that even if our spouse proves untrustworthy, Jesus is always faithful and will never, ever harm or leave or disappoint us. Singles exercise trust long before they’re married when they believe that God provides in His perfect timing.

What if instead of placing our trust in our spouse or in the institution of marriage, we placed our trust in the One who designed marriage to reveal His glory, the One whose very name means “God is with us”?

Struggle is woven into the very fabric of marriage. Two different flawed people, incomplete and naturally self-centered, joined together as one. Struggle is inevitable.

Yet over and over again, God uses these fusions of wills to create a dynamic and beautiful canvas to display redemption and accomplish His will.

If I’m honest, my marriage has magnified my own selfishness, my desire for comfort, convenience, and control. More than anything, my marriage has revealed my desperate need to be changed by God.

Every marriage is evidence that we all need Jesus smack dab between us.

There is such sweet hope this Christmas season. For you, for me, for our marriages. Immanuel. God is right here with us . . . living and breathing and moving and working in our most precious relationships. He is with us.

So if you’re wondering how to exercise real trust in your marriage, it’s pretty simple: Trust Him.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Kelly

2

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

On the way to baggage claim, I listened to the message my doctor’s office had left while I was 36,000 feet in the air. I had just landed in North Carolina for a writer’s conference and happened to be four months pregnant.

The nurse’s words came at the worst possible time. My test results were in, and I needed a prescription filled immediately. My plan for a quiet evening was suddenly hijacked. Finding a ride to the pharmacy was not on my travel agenda.

Neither was the profound and unexpected conversation I had with a complete stranger.

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

When my prescription was ready later that evening, I waited outside as the hotel shuttle pulled up to the curb. I needed a ride to the Walmart ten minutes away.  Other conference attendees requested rides to restaurants and the local mall. My stop was the last one since Walmart was the furthest.

The driver asked me questions about what I did. His name was Dale. He made hats for a living. A blue and gray driving cap adorned his head. Dale wasted no time revealing that he knew Jesus. I shared my inferiority in a sea brimming with talent and my initial hesitancy to even attend this writer’s conference. I felt like I didn’t quite belong.

As I listened to him speak, I caught hints of contentment laced all throughout his words.

At a stoplight, he slowed the van to a halt and turned to face me. He said, “You know, Miss Kelly, artists like us, we got to listen to the Spirit of God. God created us to create. If we get caught up in what the world calls success, then we really aren’t all that different from the rest of them, are we?”

I nodded in agreement. Maybe it was always God’s plan to fly me across the country for this one conversation with a hat-making-taxicab-driver named Dale.

I took lots of notes at that conference. I learned so much in those three days. Yet Dale’s words were the ones that played over and over in my head; they resonate even today, two and a half years later.

God knew I needed to hear those words in the worst way.

Dale didn’t need a microphone on a stage to deliver words of influence. The business card he handed me has long been misplaced. It had the shuttle service number at the bottom and a blank line across the middle. Underneath were the words WRITE DRIVER’S NAME HERE in tiny caps.

His name never appeared on a conference program or a screen with his credentials; he didn’t seem to need evidence that his art was successful. His name wasn’t even printed on the business cards he handed people. Maybe because He was in the business of making God’s name known.

Lately I’ve been reading this passage in Romans:

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 11:36-12:2

What if God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is for me to live small?

What if that’s His plan so that I can worship Him properly for the rest of my time here on earth?

Living small goes against the flow of this selfie-saturated world. I’ve been convicted lately that in many ways my life doesn’t look all that different. Sometimes I look, think, and act just like those who don’t know Jesus. His presence in my heart should make a vibrant difference.

There’s a power struggle going on in my heart, an all-out battle with myself.

Yeah, I want to be known. I’d love someone to view my words as publish-worthy, because it would serve as evidence that I’m a real writer. I compare myself, I’m way too self-aware, and quite honestly, entitlement infiltrates my thoughts on a daily basis.

Jesus looked and talked and thought so differently during His years here on earth. He found value in the least, the spiritually bankrupt, the foolish and unimportant. Jesus was so socially awkward.  But, never wavering, He knew why He had come.

Jesus talked about the narrow way and the small gate, and He was completely honest when He said few would find it. He taught that hearts set on earthly things that waste away would only inherit treasure that fades away as well. But hearts set on the things of heaven would find their treasure secure with Him.

Our devotion fuels our pursuit.

The world often recognizes eternal treasure as foolishness. Paul warns the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform.” Conform means to be in agreement with. Chasing big means agreeing with what the world labels success. It’s building myself up to make my name known.

A life of influence never depends on a microphone and a crowd. I want to chase the kind of success that can’t be measured here on earth.

Choosing small means letting the Spirit of God guide each step rather than the latest five-step plan for success. It means spending our lives to make His name known, and counting everything secondary to knowing Him.

Small has a way of clearing the space around us so that our souls can breathe in and out with ease.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

2

{HER STORY} 02: Redefining Adventure

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Two and a half weeks before she heard her doctor say the words, “You’re in remission,” I listened to my mom tell her story. I would have never called her journey through cancer an adventure, but God is redefining adventure for me.

This is her story.

Her Story: Redefining Adventure

My mom describes her childhood as a time of searching. She finally found what she was chasing after at the age of fifteen. She always loved God, but one day someone explained to her how Jesus loved and died for her. That someone was my dad. Life didn’t become safer or more certain after that, but it certainly became more adventurous.

Just after she turned thirty-one, my mom flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya, three little ones in tow. She and my dad joined a team called Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Terrified, she laid in bed the night before they left begging God to intervene and change their assignment.  Everything seemed so scary and uncertain. In the end, God said no. He knew she would one day recognize this adventure as one of His very best gifts.

Her story is teaching me that adventure requires both courage and vulnerability.

Dave and Ruth's Wedding Day

Dave and Ruth 2008

My mom will tell you that her time in Africa was the most joyful and peaceful time of her entire life. She found joy in all God was teaching her and peace in how He provided for our family. Yet she also recalls the difficulty and the struggle. A season of suffering preceded the season of joy. Life in Africa was full of difficult decisions, inevitable risk, isolating realties, and unforeseen adjustments.

My six-year-old eyes could only see the adventure while living in Kenya. Yet when my mom received her cancer diagnosis almost a year ago, my thirty-six-year-old eyes couldn’t see adventure at all. Our family gathered together and begged God to intervene and change this impossible diagnosis. Though three decades separate these two narratives, God has woven them together in the most intricate and beautiful way.

Sometimes, we discover adventure when we aren’t even looking for it.

I remember the avocado tree in front of our flat in Nairobi where most of my own childhood adventure took place. Mom would ask my younger brother to climb high up into the thick branches to pluck an avocado for supper. We played all day long underneath its shade. It was so much more than a tree; it was an adventure waiting to be explored.

Banana trees lined the view out back, where our clothes hung with pegs on a line. My youngest brother—who learned Swahili right along with English—loved to launch their red petals down the drainage ditch. He sat hunched over watching little red speedboats chase their own daring adventure.

Twice a year we took the overnight train from Nairobi to Mombasa. Dad built elaborate sand castles all day long, with intricate towers and a working moat. Mom helped us spot shells hidden in the sand.

In the midst of  beauty and simplicity were the realities of loss and uncertainty.

Nairobi, Kenya 1988

Getting lost was a prerequisite to finding our way. My parents had to grieve the loss of their old community before they found a new one. Family was redefined as an entire ocean separated loved ones.

God gave my Mom many opportunities to trust Him. The matatu that took me to school each day—about forty-five minutes away—drove right past the coffee plantation that saddled up next to the campus grounds.

I grew to anticipate the evenly spaced rows of coffee plants. My world was small and seemingly predictable. The trip never seemed that long when I was six years old. Mom whispered prayers of protection as she kissed me good-bye each morning. As a mother of two six-year-olds, I now have an entirely new perspective of the trust my mom must have possessed.

At a stop light once, a man reached into our car and tried to grab the gold chain right off Mom’s neck. Instinctively, she rolled up her window as he yanked his hand out through the tiny slit at the top. He stretched her chain about two inches, but it never broke. She kept right on wearing that gold chain that held a pendant in the shape of Africa.

She, too, was stretched but not broken.

Sometimes, God invites us into adventure so that we discover our need for Him. My mom’s specific cancer and circumstances prevented her from being in large groups of people for the duration of her treatment. For an extrovert who thrives among people, this was extremely difficult and costly for her, but God provided in such unexpected and loving ways.

Ruth and Chocolate July 2016Just as God blessed our family with a special community in a foreign country, He provided this year as well. Mom has embraced a new kind of community during her battle with cancer. She’s had more one-on-one conversations this past year than in the last ten. An overwhelmingly warm online community emerged as well to support and rally behind her as she shared prayer requests and updates.

I remember struggling to understand the beautiful hymns sung in Swahili on Sunday mornings as a kid. Mom used to tell me that God didn’t care whether I knew the words or not; she said He only looked at my heart. I’ve noticed how having cancer has compelled my mom to discover brand new ways to worship God.

Adventure draws us into deeper communion with God.

Some days, weak and in pain, all she could do was cry out to God from her living room couch. She struggled most of the time just to come up with the words, but her inability to worship with words of clarity enhanced the humble posture of her heart.

My mom’s “thankful journal” from the past year is evidence that we can always find a reason to thank God.  Scattered throughout the pages are names of friends, family members, strangers she met in Walmart, people she sat beside during chemotherapy, doctors and nurses who cared for her. Rain is tucked in here and there, and pancakes, too. Half a dozen times she wrote the word new. New places, new friends, new beginnings. A new assignment.

Even in the midst of loss, newness emerges.

The entries that stirred something deep within me were the ones she wrote about God. As I read each one, I realized that my mom’s adventure has given her so many opportunities to gaze into the face of God.

God never changes even if I do / God’s great love for me in spite of my tremendous sin / God created all things and sent Jesus so that we can all be redeemed and restored / God’s promise to be with me and go before me / the vastness of God / the tenderness of God / God’s timing / God’s voice

My mom possesses a peace I don’t recognize in myself. She has experienced how God is God even when health fails and safety slips away. Pain and beauty, suffering and growth, loss and gain—all have defined her adventure.

She would’ve never chosen this adventure, but she recognizes God’s gifts hidden within.

Ruth May 2016Adventure isn’t just traveling the globe or sky-diving out over a breath-taking view. Adventure is entering places of risk and potential danger. It’s thanking God for every glimpse of goodness today without being sure about tomorrow.

Adventure might be moving to a foreign country or receiving a cancer diagnosis. It could be not knowing how someone will respond to your story, but telling it anyway.

Every adventure also requires a certain level of loss; we must lose what we think we need in order to gain something we’ve never experienced. Sometimes, it’s safety and certainty. Sometimes, it’s our comfort.

Not every adventure involves the same risk, but each one requires our willingness to experience loss for the sake of God’s greater purpose. Being open to His will in our lives means we trust Him more than we fear the unknown. This is where courage and vulnerability unite.

Our greatest struggle has the potential to become our greatest adventure.

God created us to embrace the uncertainty, the unexpectedness, the risk and possible danger of pursuing Him. There is no control in adventure, only wonder and awe.

Mom said something that day she told me her story, and I’ll never forget her words. She said, “All I had left was God, and He is all that I need.” Her story would not be the same without His story. The greatest adventure of her life has been pursuing the One who pursued her first.

The word advent tucks itself neatly inside the word adventure. Advent means “coming into view.” It means to wait expectantly. Advent is the beginning of adventure. It marks the arrival of Jesus, who died our death, then rose three days later. It reminds us that He came and will come again, but in between those two comings is this precious opportunity to enter into adventure with Him.

Every adventure—filled with mystery, uncertainty, and beauty—poses a brand new opportunity to wait expectantly for Jesus to reveal Himself to us.

What adventure is Jesus calling you to discover today?

Kelly

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